April 10, 2019

Attendees of the 2018 MSDSE Annual Summit pose for a group shot. Photo, Robin Brooks, eScience Institute

Attendees of the 2018 MSDSE Annual Summit pose for a group shot. Photo, Robin Brooks, eScience Institute

The Moore-Sloan Data Science Environments (MSDSE) program, established jointly by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, was launched in 2014 to foster and enhance data-intensive discovery at academic institutions.  The program initially funded three data science environments for five years (recently extended for an additional two years): the eScience Institute at the University of Washington, the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) at the University of California Berkeley, and the Center for Data Science (CDS) at New York University. As the MSDSE transitions into its extension period, we are excited to report that UW’s eScience Institute has become a permanent Institute with consistent positive impact on the University of Washington campus, and a bright and sustainable future.

Abt Associates Report

Abt Associates, which has contracted with the MSDSE since 2015, has released its culminating report on the initiative. Over the past four years, Abt has studied each of the DSE institutions through site visits, surveys, interviews, etc. This report is the product of those efforts, and aims to provide a framework of both the successes and challenges of the DSEs for other data science institutions. It identifies a number of key attributes as well as metrics, which can be utilized to measure the effectiveness of various institutional strategies. The report may be found here: http://msdse.org/reports/.

Key findings from the report about the UW eScience Institute include:

  • MSDSE funding was essential to achieving the momentum and validation that led to significant additional investments in core data science infrastructure.
  • The eScience Institute is a mature center with a long-term sustainability plan.
  • Faculty, staff, postdocs and students, from eScience and across campus, benefited from the rich intellectual environment of the Institute.
  • eScience created a promising career track for data scientists .
  • Participants published many papers, contributed to the ecosystem of tools and practices, and obtained follow-up funding.
  • eScience was crucial in ensuring that no individual department took over data science education, but rather that all contributed to teaching in a coordinated fashion.

The Abt Associates report reflects a benchmark in time as Abt finished their evaluation in early 2018. We are grateful for the insights this report provides and the opportunity to reflect on the development of the eScience Institute over the past 4 years within the supportive MSDSE partnership.

Recent developments

Since the Abt evaluation was completed, the eScience Institute has had several milestones and launched notable new initiatives, a few of which are briefly noted below:

  • In the context of the new permanent funding from the Office of the Provost, Director Magda Balazinska was named UW Associate Vice Provost for Data Science, an important acknowledgement of the central role of data science in university research.
  • The eScience Institute hosted our first UW Data Science Summit in April 2018 – an opportunity to network with researchers at the forefront of data-intensive discovery. This event included two days of talks, breakout sessions, and tutorials highlighting data science research at the UW, as well as local companies and foundations. In May 2019, this event will broaden to become the Northwest Data Science Summit in partnership with the University of British Columbia, register now.
  • In collaboration with multiple departments, schools, and programs, eScience launched an annual Data Science Career Fair, an event open to all postdocs, PhD students, and undergraduates on campus interested in data science career. The event brings together approximately 50 companies and 1000 students.
  • In response to a demand from our community for more advanced learning opportunities, we have created advanced workshops and a new Advanced Topics in Data Science spring tutorial series. Stay tuned for the second iteration of this series focused on ‘Bayesian Data Analysis’ in spring quarter 2019.
  • As our community grows, we started a new series of Special Interest Groups (SIGs). Some of those groups are outgrowths of our original Working Groups described in the Abt report. But various new SIGs are emerging on themes from Satellite Image Analytics, to Text as Data, and many others.
  • eScience has partnered with the Algorithmic Foundations for Data Science Institute (ADSI) at UW. Funded by an NSF Transdisciplinary Research in Principles of Data Science (TRIPODS) award, ADSI focuses on foundational aspects of data science and enables eScience to incorporate training on core methods in statistics and optimization.
  • As student interest in Data Science grows, the eScience Institute has partnered with multiple student groups to better connect their activities to the Data Science Environment on campus.
  • Finally, we started a new Industry Affiliates Program to grow our connections with data science activities in industry.

2019 Moore-Sloan Data Science Environments Summit

We look forward to the 6th (!!) Moore-Sloan Data Science Environments Summit November 5-8, 2019 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since the MSDSE initiative began in 2013, these summits have been held annually around the country to bring together the original partners at the Moore Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, the University of Washington, New York University, and the University of California, Berkeley, as well as leading national members of the data science academic community. The summits have featured networking events, workshops, lightning talks, and more, placing early career and senior researchers together in an invaluable learning ecosystem. We can’t wait to see what we learn at this year’s summit!